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In Vitro Maturation

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In vitro fertilization (IVF) has been in the headlines lately, but have you heard about the new technique called in vitro maturation, or IVM? First attempted at the Oxford Fertility Clinic in the UK, IVM is considered a lower-risk alternative to IVF. Its first trial resulted in healthy twins. What does this new procedure involve, and is it really as safe as it seems?

What is IVM? IVM versus IVF

In vitro maturation is similar to in vitro fertilization, with one important difference: the eggs don't need to be fully mature before they are harvested. Traditional IVF requires the eggs to mature before they are removed from the donor's ovaries. This maturation is accomplished with the use of hormonal drugs which can cause significant side effects and discomfort.

IVM allows the egg cells to mature after collection. Kept safe in a laboratory setting, the egg cells are fertilized after 48 hours of maturation. Three to five days later, the fertilized embryos are implanted into the patient's uterus.

Is IVM Safe?

Studies have shown that IVM is just as safe as other assisted reproductive technology procedures. In fact, it may be the best choice for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), blocked fallopian tubes, or unexplained infertility. Because IVM doesn't require hormone therapy, it is a safe choice for women who might otherwise be susceptible to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

As with all fertility treatments, IVM is associated with an increased risk of multiple births. Researchers at Canada's McGill University found that IVM, along with other assisted reproductive procedures, is linked to a very slight increase in cesarean delivery.

What Are the Benefits of IVM?

The most obvious benefit of in vitro maturation is the elimination of hormone injections to force the production of mature eggs. These hormone drugs require a serious time commitment and frequently involve pain, discomfort, and the risk of injection-site swelling and infection. IVM reduces those risks by harvesting immature eggs rather than mature eggs. When a woman goes in for IVM treatment, she only undergoes a single hormone injection 38 hours before egg retrieval.

IVM is less expensive and less time-consuming than traditional IVF. It does cause an elevated risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can be painful and potentially harmful to the patient.

Finally, IVM has a success rate which is on par with other assisted reproduction treatments. About 35 percent of all women ages 35 and younger will become pregnant through IVM. As with similar treatments, this success rate gradually diminishes as the patient's age increases.

If you've been trying without success to become pregnant, speak with your doctor about in vitro maturation. It might be the answer you've been looking for.

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